The Boy In The Photo
Grand Central Publishing
June 22nd, 2021
The Boy In The Photo by Nicole Trope is a suspenseful read. This Australian author makes her US debut and does it with a bang. She takes readers on an emotional roller coaster involving love, hurt, heartbreak, and joy.
“The idea started with a story on the news about a woman who was fighting to get her children back from Lebanon. He ex-husband had taken them to visit his family and refused to come home. She ended up hiring an organization who specializes in grabbing your child away from the abducting spouse and returning them to you. The plan failed and she was left distraught. The courts in Lebanon were of no help because the country is not part of the Hague Convention on child abduction. I wondered how long it would be until she was able to see her children again and how they would turn out if they ever returned to Australia. They had been taken from one culture into another and were still very young. I tried to imagine how their father would have explained that they were never going to see their mother again and I realized that he must have only had his own interests at heart.”
There is clarification in the story between parental alienation versus parental abduction. “I wanted to show how parental alienation is a term used when one parent turns their child against the other parent. As in the book, it’s mostly a subtle form of abuse because the parent doing the alienating would not simply say, ‘I hate your mother she’s awful.’ What is done is a consistent breaking down of the child’s faith in the other parent. ‘Your mother could have called you today, but she didn’t want to. I would let you do this, but your mother wouldn’t. No one loves you like I do. Your mother is too busy with work to talk to you. You make your mother angry.’”
“While I showed in the story how parental abduction is when one parent steals a child from another parent. It’s kidnapping but I’m sure that in some cases the child may not even know it’s happening. It’s a form of abuse and control over the other person in the relationship. It’s a way to make a former partner pay for hurting you by using the child as a pawn. Men or women who are abusive and controlling often use their children as pawns when the relationship breaks down. The child is seen as something to own rather than a person with any rights. Greg took away what Megan loves most, Daniel, to cause her pain.”
The story is told in two parts: six years ago, and six years later. Megan Kade divorced her abusive husband, Greg Stanthorpe. Intending to get Megan back or to hurt her he kidnaps their son and goes off the grid.
“Greg manipulated Megan and Daniel. He took away Megan’s identity as a person. There is a scene in the book where she is afraid to order a glass of wine. Her brother asks her ‘what happened.’ She does not even really know. It starts out as a tiny compromise, and she felt it was not a big deal until eventually everything adds up. With Daniel, Greg kept him from attending school and was always told not to question. Having raised teenagers when they have questions besides going to their parent they ask friends, teachers, and go on the Internet. These were all denied to Daniel because Greg isolated him. Daniel had the same relationship with Greg as Megan did. They wanted to appease him, feared his anger, and did not want to do anything wrong.”
Six years later the boy, Daniel, appears at a New South Wales police station, reporting that his dad died in a fire. Daniel is distant, volatile, and in some ways resistant to Megan. He believes all the horror stories told to him by his father. The flashbacks of how both Megan and Daniel feel in the six-year gap emphasizes their grief and apprehension.
“Daniel was a sweet little boy, adored by his mother and just an ordinary six-year-old. At twelve he is confused, distant, aggressive, and filled with uncertainty at his place in the world. He struggles with trusting his mother after everything he has been told including that she no longer wanted him.”
This emotionally harrowing story has many twists and turns. It is so heart wrenching for both Megan and Daniel and the reader as well. People should make sure they have some time because they will not want to put this book down.